Hunt reflects on 41-year career in school district

This is the first of a multi-part interview series conducted by Courier staff reporter Nicole Daughhetee with recently retired SDPC superintendent Dr. Henry Hunt.

After an admirable 41 years of service to the School District of Pickens County, Dr. Henry Hunt will be retiring as district superintendent in July. As a reporter covering SDPC board meetings and events, I have had the chance to talk to Dr. Hunt briefly for a quote here and there after meetings; however, before he officially retired, I wanted the opportunity to be able to sit down and really talk with him, if only for a few moments.
I can remember reading an op-ed piece Dr. Pew had written for the local papers, in which she described Dr. Hunt as quiet and unassuming. In talking with communications director Julie Thompson, she called Dr. Hunt one of the finest men she had ever met and known. In my time following the board, I have always observed Dr. Hunt with the same thoughts, even though I couldn’t claim to actually know him.
He has a presence that is quiet, yet there is strength in his convictions and recommendations. I always got the sense that he made decisions based on a genuine concern for the well-being of the students and families in the Pickens County community, and that as a proponent of education, he put the needs of the students in our district first with each recommendation he made.
During meetings where the room would be packed full of people — where the tension and emotions were palpable — Dr. Hunt always maintained a serene demeanor. Always level-headed, I never once saw him lose focus or give into public pressures and passions. However, I have witnessed him take a stand for fellow leaders who serve the SDPC and the principles in which he believes. For these characteristics, I have always looked at Dr. Hunt with respect and admiration.
Having the opportunity to finally talk with him one on one was a long-standing personal and professional goal realized. As I anticipated he would be, Dr. Hunt was open, honest and, despite his stature, not at all intimidating.
Naturally, I was interested to know how Dr. Hunt’s career in education began — whether it had been a lifelong, childhood dream fulfilled or the most practical, pragmatic choice at the time. It turns out a career in education happened sort of accidentally for Dr. Hunt. Like many of us who find our calling without even realizing it, perhaps it was no accident at all. Some people are born to teach, lead and shape lives. I firmly believe Dr. Hunt is one of these special individuals.
“I kind of got into education accidentally, to tell you the truth of the matter. I was planning on going to graduate school at Clemson to study math. I got out of active duty with the Army in February 1971, the session didn’t start at Clemson until August, and I needed a job,” Hunt told me. “I was checking jobs and someone said they needed a math teacher at Dacusville High School so I went and interviewed and said ‘I can do that.’ I found I liked it, and they needed a math teacher at Dacusville Junior High (after Dacusville High was consolidated into Pickens High) so I decided to stay on there.”
Dr. Hunt explained that in the 1970s, those individuals who wanted to be teachers could get what they call a warrant certificate. If the individual was successful in the classroom, this and continued education counted toward that certificate. After completing two years of classroom teaching, one earned a regular teaching certificate.
“I was fortunate to work with David Cox, who was principal at Dacusville Middle,” Hunt said. “I really enjoyed working with him, and he gave me great guidance. I did become assistant principal there. At the time it was a first grade through ninth grade school, and I was assistant principal there for several years.”
In 1977, Hunt had the opportunity to go to A.R. Lewis Elementary as the teaching principal. The teaching principal taught half the day and performed administrative tasks the other half of the day.
“I taught math to fifth- and sixth-grade students and also acted as principal,” he said. “In 1982, I moved to Crosswell Elementary as a regular elementary school principal and stayed there for 14 years. I went to West End Elementary in 1996 and stayed there for four years. After that an opportunity to come to the district office as Assistant Superintendent for Administration with Dr. Stewart became available in 2000, and I’ve been here at the district office since then. I was appointed SDPC superintendent in 2009.”
Obviously there is a change in direct interaction with the students moving from being in the schools to being in the administrative offices. I wondered if Dr. Hunt ever missed being in the classroom or among the students as principal. He has.
“It has always been enjoyable being with the students in the classroom. You see them on a day-to-day basis. You get to know them all and interact with them. You get to see them grow and learn and progress, so that is always a sense of satisfaction. You always have varying degrees of success there. Everybody is a little different, so you have to look at each student and consider their circumstances,” said Hunt.
It is his genuine connection to the students that has made him an excellent and effective superintendent.
Dr. Hunt has never forgotten or deviated from the vision and mission of the SDPC: In partnership with families and communities, the SDPC will provide quality educational experiences that prepare all students to be successful beyond the classroom. The School District of Pickens County, a recognized leader in excellence, emphasizes high academic achievement and career preparation for all students through quality, technology-rich educational opportunities in safe environments that encourage success.
The students have always been Dr. Hunt’s priority and focus whether in the classroom teaching math, overseeing school operations as principal or making district wide recommendations with impacts that reach throughout Pickens County.